Surveying, An Observation Post
We were soon busy with survey activities. Even so, and as ever, there were still guards to be done, holes to be dug, fatigues to be performed and periods of little useful activity along with what seemed a constant change of tent. The survey tasks were all interesting, and we then started putting our Larkhill taught skills to work.
One of the first duties we had was manning an Observation Post (OP) dug into the forward slope of Crest Hill a few hundred yards from the border from which we had an extensive view across the Shum Chun River, the border areas and into mainland China. Within the hill were stores and on the rearward side a covered area for cooking over a petrol stove, a thunder box (latrine) and a tent precariously perched on the steep slope through which a gale of wind blew, and in which we attempted to sleep.
A jeep track went part of the way and from its end was a rough track. For a 48 hour guard duty, we had to manpack up all our kit and arms, including live ammunition, water, food, bedding and supplies, a difficult and challenging struggle. One of our fatigues also involved this post, replenishing its stores a very hard toil. From the OP we had a good vantage point to see what was happening, and we kept a 24 hour watch on the actions of the communists on their side of the border with all activities and movements logged. The communists similarly looked at us. They had one post on what we called China Mountain and opposite on our side was one named Robins Nest.
The observation party consisted of an officer, sergeant, three surveyors and the batman/driver who acted as cook and spare hand. I found this quite exciting and I recall spending Easter 1950 on this duty. We were then the most forward soldiers of the British Army. I felt it real soldiering particularly when a party of us ventured out, carrying our arms, to a small village below where we bartered with the villagers for milk and eggs to replenish our provisions. Not all that long before I had been a civilian in suburban Surbiton!
We were also made aware of the communist presence when one morning as we were on parade an aircraft – from the remnants of the Nationalist forces – suddenly flew low overhead and let loose a fusillade of machine gun fire at the communist positions just across the border. It was all over before we could take in what was happening. But it livened up the start of that day. It made us realize too the war in China was not yet over.